Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Interview with UIC Director of Network Engineering & Infrastructure

Jelene Crehan

In a university setting, network engineering and infrastructure play a pivotal role in facilitating academic and administrative operations. A robust network infrastructure ensures seamless communication between students, faculty, and staff, enabling efficient collaboration and information sharing. It supports vital functions such as online learning platforms, research data exchange, and administrative systems.

Network engineers design, deploy, and maintain these systems, ensuring high performance and availability. Ultimately, a well-engineered network infrastructure fosters innovation, enhances the educational experience, and empowers the university community to thrive in the digital age.

UIC Director of Network Engineering & Infrastructure, Jelene Crehan, and the Network Engineering team

Jelene Crehan sits at the helm of UIC’s main Infrastructure team. The Core Engineering Team maintains campus internet connections, routers, firewalls and switches while the wireless team maintains UIC’s entire campus wireless network, UIC-Wifi. The VoIP Engineering Team maintains campus Voice Over IP infrastructure, while the VoIP Admin Team oversees all telephone services on campus – analog and digital – with the exception of the UIC Hospital.

The Installation Crew handles data jack and fiber installations on campus to support UIC’s network core, wireless and VoIP infrastructures. They also provide licensed cabling infrastructure design consultation for all construction projects. The Startel Team heads UIC’s life-safety system that provides panic and emergency buttons to connect patrons directly to the UIC Police Department dispatch unit. And lastly the Data Center Operations Team is responsible for maintaining and monitoring campus data centers and large data center projects.

“Technology Solutions is such a great organization and has come a long way in the last five to seven years in all aspects of service delivery… we have been successful in providing new and improved solutions in every area of our department.” Crehan says, highlighting the importance of working with a dedicated and talented team.

In this spotlight interview with UIC Technology Solutions’ Marketing & Communications Strategist Anthe Mitrakos, Crehan highlights how her team works behind the scenes and on the ground to propel UIC’s Network Strategic Plan.

Our Technology Solutions staff are incredible problem-solvers that are extremely dedicated. Delivering central IT services to an entire university is no small task, but we have made incredible achievements worthy of celebration.

Jelene Crehan  |  UIC Director of Network Engineering and Infrastructure

Spotlight Interview with Jelene Crehan Heading link

Network strategic plan slide with mission: To create network design goals and requirements that are needed to avoid catastrophic failure, enable institutional success and foster future innovation.

Anthe Mitrakos: Is there a network infrastructure project you are particularly proud of? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them? 

Jelene Crehan: I am especially proud of our Network Strategic Plan. Our teams spent a lot of time evaluating our network in 2019, talked to various campus stakeholders about their needs and expectations, and developed a seven to 10 year plan to provide more reliable network services to the UIC community.

The project is still ongoing, as we are only in year four, but honestly, it will be an ever-evolving project. We will always be analyzing what the campus community needs and determining if there is a better, more effective way to deliver that service to meet that need.

As the campus needs change, so will our infrastructure. The biggest challenge outside of the pandemic, which was revolutionary from an IT standpoint, is having these great infrastructure improvement plans, and not having enough staff to accomplish the work. Thankfully, we have successfully added some new talent to our infrastructure staff that has been very helpful, to keep our projects moving forward and help in our daily operations.

It all starts with the backbone infrastructure of any network. We are modernizing our network in every building, replacing all hardware and building redundancy where needed. We are also improving our data center environments and building redundant underground infrastructure to successfully support both sides of campus.

Jelene Crehan  |  UIC Director of Network Engineering and Infrastructure
Jelene Crehan Director of Network Engineering presenting with the Networks team at the 2024 IT Community Conference

A.M.: Collaboration is key in a university setting. How do you foster effective collaboration between the network engineering team and other departments to ensure the seamless operation of the university’s network infrastructure?

J.C.: The Network Engineering team or telecom team should be “at the table” for nearly every project discussion, because in the end, technology will most likely be the driving force for whatever a project wants to accomplish. Being at the table at the very beginning of a project ensures we are laying a solid technical foundation. Because of this, our teammates across the Infrastructure team Organizational Chart (Engineering, Telecom and Data Centers), are all very collaborative and willing to assist or give expertise feedback whenever needed or asked.

Across campuses, we have standing meetings with our regional campuses, and active chat spaces with bigger campus IT departments and colleges as we address their infrastructure needs and rapid changes. We are also constantly in contact with our TS Security, Project Management, and Enterprise Applications and Services groups as we all work to bring central IT services to campus.

A.M.: Describe a day in the life of a Director of Network Engineering and Infrastructure.

J.C.: With my large portfolio and project list, I can definitely say that no two days in this role are the same. I’m very lucky to have such great teams to work with, who are really dedicated and passionate about what they do.

I spend some of my days working through challenges and obstacles that might affect my teams and their abilities to do what they do best. I spend some of my days helping to apply our services to match or exceed the business needs of a given department by meeting with local departments and hearing what their struggles and successes are.

Some days, I am strategizing where we want our infrastructure to be in the future, what it will take to get there, and developing a financial and strategic plan to accomplish that goal. Some days I am bringing units together to find ways to collaborate better within TS, across campus, and across the system.

Upgrading Network Infrastructure Through the UIC Forward Initiative Heading link

Forward initiative logo

The UIC Forward Initiative consists of strategic plans and technology roadmaps to upgrade, expand, optimize, and/or modernize Data Network and Voice Systems, Data Centers and Research Cyberinfrastructure.

The Forward Initiative’s main Network goals include expanding Wi-Fi connectivity and eliminating legacy phone systems that are obsolete. Benefits include a faster and more reliable campus network, increased network security and compliance with regulatory requirements, and the ability to meet research and teaching network demands.